Here are the 8 things you really need to know — and do — to create content that’s a gift to your constituents:
1. Content marketing should mean you begin with what you have to say. Bring together a multi-disciplinary team of staff and/or volunteers. Get out your easel. Brainstorm a list of what’s hot at your organization. Then brainstorm some more. Consider how what you do ties in with what’s going on in the news (and what may be top of mind for your potential supporters)? Draw a circle around those topics that have the greatest currency and relevance.
2. The next step is to figure out what your constituents want to hear. What are your most frequently asked questions? Ask your receptionist. Ask your program directors. Ask your volunteers. What content do you see your constituents sharing on social media? Jot down all this information.
3. Then determine where these two things intersect. Figure out how the content you previously brainstormed and circled might answer your readers’ burning questions or address their favorite subject areas. Use a marker and connect the hot, relevant topics to the hot, relevant questions and shares. That’s the content you want to put out into the universe – throughwhatever marketing communications mediums you have at your disposal or can realistically manage.
4. What kind of emotionally compelling stories might you have to tell that relate to this relevant content? Jot down any stories that come to mind. Go searching for others. As business and thought leader Jim Collins taught us: “We are known by the stories we can tell.” Make sharing stories a common practice within your organization. Infuse them into your culture. Share stories at board and staff meetings. Ask program staff to share stories with you. Share stories with them.
Effective storytelling is often the heart of an effective. attention-grabbing content marketing program. And, yes, “storytelling” is another meme du jour. But there’s a reason these phrases become buzzworthy. So don’t throw them out just because they’ve crept into jargon territory.People are wired for stories, and they’re more likely to understand, remember and share your content if it comes in a format that shows them the central challenge you seek to overcome — and how they can prevent tragedy.
5. Look for stories that show folks how they can prevent an unhappy ending. At the end of the day, the heart of your communications strategy – your purpose in writing – must be to persuade us that if your organization, and the donor, doesn’t help, something untenable will happen to your main character. The character may be a person, an animal, a place or a principle. Whatever person, place or thing is faced with a challenge, don’t let it suffer. Don’t let it wither. Don’t let it die.
6. Find ways you can get your audiences to interact with your content. Your goal is to get folks engaged with you, right? Then consider how you might kick-start this activity. There’s a reason those Publisher’s Clearing House mailings come with all sorts of stickers for you to affix before you mail off your entry. It gets you involved! For some ways to craft interactive content, click here.
7. Now you’re ready to create a content editorial calendar . This is where you begin to think about your mediums. Which content will work best in your newsletter? Which do you want to share via social media? What should go into your fundraising appeal? When are the best times to share your content, and with which constituencies? When will you piggyback, perhaps sharing your blog posts via links to your e-newsletter or Twitter feed? Who will be in charge of producing the content? Who will review it? What will the deadline be?
And so forth. Your content calendar gets you organized. It helps you to become strategic and consistent, rather than random and ad hoc. There are many different templates and content scheduling tools out there to choose from, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel (It can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet template; a Google calendar; a free Editorial Calendar Plug-inwith a simple drag and drop interface… or even a Word document or desk-top or wall calendar. It doesn’t need to be fancy; it just needs to be something with which you’re comfortable).
Content marketing does not mean you give up on all your different communications mediums. Your choice of communications platform does matter. It’s just that emphasizing the box rather than the gift inside the box is backwards. You don’t want to put the medium cart before the messaging horse.
8. Write a content marketing plan to efficiently disseminate your messaging to target constituents. Your written content marketing plan should embrace both fundraising and awareness-raising goals. It should include ways to create powerful content that will accomplish all your objectives. Plus it must identify platforms where the folks who you want to impress hang out (e.g., LinkedIn, Facebook, email, their curbside mailbox, their smart phone, etc.).
When you’re done, you’ll have a well-organized and integrated content marketing plan that includes: goals (why you want to do this); objectives (how you’ll do this, with measurable outcomes); strategies (what you’ll do, who will be responsible, and when you’ll target getting it done) and tactics (tools and platforms you’ll use and promotion strategy.
Get thee a content marketing plan that prioritizes the messages your constituents most want to hear. Then figure out the platforms — both online and offline — in which to deploy them. You’ll be well on your way to raising awareness and investment in your cause!